Skip to Content

Luz is Shining on the Future of its Students

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

  Situated on top of a hill on the Northwest side of Tucson is a charter school that is giving students from all parts of town a better chance at attending college.

Luz-Guerrero Early College is comprised of Guerrero Middle School and Luz Academy High School, 2797 N. Introspect Dr. Luz Academy is one of the first charter high schools that are busing students from other parts of town, on their own dime.

"A majority of the students come from the west and south side of town," said Ralph Chavez, the principal of Luz Academy High School. "We even pick up a few kids coming from the reservation."

Luz Academy doesn't turn a child away from their programs. Because the school doesn't require an entrance exam. They will accept virtually any student.

"We don't deny kids a chance to go to school," said Chavez. "We have students that come from Guerrero Middle School. There are kids who transfer here from TUSD (Tucson Unified School District) and other charter schools in Tucson. But if the kids want to come to school here they have to work."

Students who attend Luz Academy not only have a chance to earn a diploma, but they can also earn college credit through Pima Community College. Students can qualify for this program by passing PCC's placement test that most college freshmen take to place into math and English courses.

"We have some students who graduate high school and are already sophomores in college," said Chavez.

Students can gain college credit in English, sociology and biology. In addition, they can take advanced placement classes in Spanish and math that can be counted towards college credit if they pass the AP exam.

Ralph Chavez, principle of Luz Academey. Photo by Allana Erickson"You can't come to this school and goof off," said Chavez. "We want kids to come here to be serious about their education. We want there to be excellence behind the diploma that they achieve."

The school has more than 200 students with a teacher ratio of one to every 14 students. Every day, students attend four classes. On one day they will go to four classes and the next day they will go to four different classes and then switch back, said Chavez.

The Arizona State Board of Education has ranked Luz Academy with a Performance Plus, the second-highest school ranking for high school education. This is based on academic achievement, parental involvement and test scores.

Chavez credits this success to the students, parents and the school's no-nonsense approach to education. They have a strict code of conduct that regulates behavior, school attendance and a uniform dress code.

"The school is very safe," said Chavez. "We don't have problems with drugs or violence like the bigger schools."

Cutbacks are a continuing challenge

Like most schools, the 10-year-old Luz Academy faces its own set of challenges. Ninety percent of the students are Hispanic and come from low-income, single-family homes. In addition, 88 percent of the students are on free or reduced lunches, according to Chavez.

"Some of the parents cannot handle English and that makes their kids unable to handle the language," said Chavez. "We work with the students so they can understand English and we have had a decent number that graduate with honors."

Hallway at Luz Academey. Photo by Allana EricksonThe school also is lacking funding. Though they receive reimbursement grants from the state, aid from Luz Social Services and other services, Luz Academy can only afford the basics. They have a small teaching staff, one counselor to process over 200 students and only three elective classes: Computer Lab, Art and Mariachi.

During the last round of cutbacks the school lost their only nurse and two administrators.

"I wish we had more dollars," said Chavez. "Everything we want to do - like trips to ASU - we have to hold fundraisers."

Chavez believes the school needs more technology resources, a school nurse, and three more teachers. He would like to be able to fund a full-time art teacher, a music teacher, and speech and drama classes.

Though they don't have many elective classes, they do have some extracurricular activities outside of class. Luz Academy has a championship girls volleyball team and boys basketball team. Some teachers have created a student council, newspaper, science program, National Honor Society and gardening projects with no additional compensation for their time.

"We believe in this school and our students," said Chavez. "I look forward to coming to work every day and the teachers echo this philosophy. We do the best we can and the students do well. We will do good this year and next year we will be better."

CommunityWalk Map - Luz-Gurrero Early College

Written by Allana Erickson

Stalk us at:

Border Beat on Facebook


Border Beat Blogs

Educación en la Frontera

By: Shannon Maule

A look at higher education in regard to those who have and have not been able to travel from various countries to the United States. Stories from people in the higher education world relating to the border.

A Mosaic America

By: Rachel Kolinski

"Exploring Diversity one Face at a Time"

Dancing in the Desert

By: Hope Jamieson

Explore dance throughout the borderlands.

A City of Musical Diversity

By: Maria Teracena

Tucson musicians influence and are influenced by the sounds of the world.

Culture Crossing

By: Chelsey Barthel

American borders are crossed every day by cultures of all kind. These stories tell the personal experiences of people from different lands, offering further insight into the difference of cultures.

Borderfilmbeat

By: Lauren Inouye

A look at Mexican and Latin films that reflect culture, politics, and society --  reviews, research and analysis.

CaPOWera

By: Charles Misra

Stories about martial arts and combat sports with a cultural twist, all finding a home in America's southwestern borderlands.

Border People

By: Jamie Turow

Profiles of English language learners.

Tear Down Borders

By: Jessica Hoerth

Meet some of the people in Tucson who have made the journey across the border as they share what they came in search of and what struggles they may have encountered along the way.

Border Couture

By: Lauren Urratio

Fashion and how it is impacted by the border and international cultures.

Crossing the Line

By: Lucy Valencia

News from along the border with Mexico

The Border Project

By: Melissa Guz

"The Border Project" is an art showcase located in the University of Arizona's Museum of Art. It has over 40+ art pieces related to border issues.

Athletics and the Border

By: Preston Fawcett

Get to know high school coachs and athletes from Arizona border towns or from Mexico and their struggles to get to where they are.

Border Personalities

By: Audrey A. Fitzsimmons

The Southwest boasts of diverse ethnic backgrounds and a wealth of interesting personalities. Border Personalities is dedicated to the people of the Southwest and their stories.

Border Beats

By: Jeff Kessler

U.S. - Mexico border issues, current events, and interesting local stories

Music of the Border

By: Steven Schiraldi

Music reviews of musical works by Mexican or other ethnic artists.

The Border Wall

By: Brett Haupt

A visual exploration of America’s last frontier -- pictures and videos from different areas of the wall and fence that separate two different worlds and insight into what really stands between the United States and Mexico, ramifications of wall building and what it means for the average citizen.

Border Athletes

By: Lauren Sokol

Meet international student athletes at the University of Arizona, a look at the recruiting process that helped them find a temporary home in the desert, and culture changes that the athletes might have endured.

Journey Across the Border

By: Emily Kjesbo

Spotlighting Mexico’s top travel destinations, as well as a few of its hidden gems.

Border Shots

By: Keith Perfetti

A photojournalist looks at how other photographers have viewed the border and shoots lesser known spots of the southwest.


MLS Soccer comes to the Desert

By: Jeff Kessler

All about the 2012 Desert Diamond Cup,  a 10 day exhibition soccer tournament featuring four Major League Soccor teams coming to Tucson.